Saturday, 29 April 2017

Signals And Significances

Alternative histories have become a familiar concept. There are different ways for an author to signal to his readers that his narrative is set in an alternative history.

(i) Simply present a narrative from a pov within the alternative history and let the reader deduce what is happening, e.g., Poul Anderson's "The House of Sorrows." Within this context, Philip Pullman's early reference to a Pope Martin Luther is a convenient shorthand message to the reader that here is an alternative history in which there was no Reformation.

(ii) Physically, someone opens a Gate to an environment untouched by civilization. This happens at the beginning and end of SM Stirling's Conquistador. Again, the sabretooth at the end is a convenient shorthand.

(iii) Mentally, a character accesses perceptions and memories from alternative lives. This happens to a psychic in Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers and to an explorer of Nantucket in Stirling's The Sunrise Lands.

Innsmouth is Lovecraftian fictional geography. "Nantucket" exists in our timeline but has acquired a Changed significance in the Emberverse. Place names can come to mean events: "Hiroshima" in our history; "London" in Alan Moore's Miracleman. Nantucket becomes both an event and a strange place.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I'm not sure I agree with your point (ii). After all, the Americas of CONQUISTADOR, altho not conquered by Europeans, it did did have civilizations. Such as the Aztec. Because we do see mention of that culture in the book. Yes, I knew you meant that the California of CONQUISTADOR, only had humans who were still at a hunter/gatherer level of culture.


  2. Kaor, Paul!

    I forgot to add to my first comment that I'm starting to think the only time OUR Earth or timeline is seen in Stirling alternate worlds books is the Earth/2 seen in DRAKON. Because to the characters from the Domination timeline, OUR world is their "alternate universe."